Eating out is something that most people find joy doing, whether that be to visit a restaurant they grew up going to, to eat their favorite cuisine, or simply to enjoy the aesthetic pleasure of the interior of a restaurant. However, the bills add up if you find yourself eating out all the time.
Here are a few of my favorite spots to dine at with a friend in Chicago on a budget of $50 (including tax and tip) between the two of us:
I chose a spot that is well known among locals for its relaxed (dare I say dive bar) ambiance, great service and affordable prices. Brehon Pub, located on the corner of Wells and Superior street, was founded in 1980 by two Irish brothers and has since been a go-to for Irish-American food and drinks.
Though many pubs or taverns only offer a small food menu, Brehon’s food menu spans several pages, offering a diverse selection of appetizers, sandwiches, “pub grub” (mozzarella sticks, onion rings, waffle fries), burgers, mac & cheese, and a full list of dinner entrees. Their drink menu also boasts an impressive beer and wine list, along with retro cocktails and premium martinis. As a repeat Brehon diner, I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the bar’s Daily Special menu, which offers both an entree and drink at a discounted price each day of the week (except Friday).
During our visit, I chose to opt for their Monday Daily Special, which was a sloppy joe and fries with a pint of Miller Lite. My boyfriend ordered the tried and true mac and cheese with BBQ chicken and jalapenos, as well as a pint of Miller Lite.
The food arrived to our table hot and ready to eat. My sloppy joe was everything one hopes a sloppy joe would be – savory and slightly spicy, with a little sweetness from the tomatoes in the sauce. The fries were crispy and the pickles on the side made for a perfect salty bite after eating the sloppy joe. The mac and cheese was incredibly decadent; the flavorful white cheese sauce was just right to balance the sweet BBQ chicken and spicy pickled jalapenos.
Nestled in the heart of the River North area, Centennial Crafted Beer and Eatery is a restaurant that serves craft beers alongside a full food menu that emphasizes smoked, char-broiled and wood-fired ingredients. The restaurant itself gives off a “modern tap room” vibe, complete with a wood bar surrounded by exposed brick walls and a community table built from floor posts in the original building (built in 1888, which basically means dining here counts as a historical field trip). We stopped in on a Thursday afternoon to try their happy hour menu, which is offered weekly every Wednesday through Friday from 4 to 6pm. The server was quick to greet us and get us seated, even without a reservation. He asked if we wanted to start off with a drink, and I opted for the happy hour lager and my boyfriend ordered the happy hour amber ale. Our waiter brought the beers out quickly in chilled glasses, which is exactly the type of service you want on a hot Chicago summer evening! When it came time to put in our order, I chose the spring salad with chicken while my boyfriend selected the BBQ sandwich. My salad was a mixture of spinach, goat cheese, strawberries, slivered almonds and grilled chicken, topped with a creamy garlic dressing and an avocado puree on the side. The dish was tangy, fresh and sweet and the addition of the chicken made it much more filling. The BBQ sandwich was served on a brioche bun, with pulled pork, vinegar coleslaw, and their house Kansas city spicy BBQ sauce, complete with a deli pickle on the side. The sandwich was the perfect balance between spicy and sweet, with the smokiness of the pulled pork bringing each bite together. For the fast and friendly service, unique ambiance, and tasty food, I thought the price point was very reasonable– and if you come in during happy hour, you get an even better deal!
Moti, a casual Indian spot specializing in street food, has become a fast favorite for many of the locals in the area because of the delicious food at an affordable price. Described as Indian-American fusion, their menu boasts more traditional dishes such as momos, tikka masala and vada pav, as well as more experimental items, like tikka pizza. For our drinks, we opted for an iced Masala chai and an Indian lemon/lime soda called Limca. For our appetizer and entree, we ordered the vada pav and the chicken masala elote pizza. After placing our order, we walked outside with our order number to enjoy their beautiful outdoor seating area. The Masala chai was both sweet and spicy, and choosing to have it iced was the perfect way to enjoy the drink on a hot summer evening. The lemon/lime soda was surprisingly tasty, and much less sweet than many traditional American sodas, making it easy to drink the whole can in one sitting. After we sat down at our table, the waiter brought our pizza and vada pav out to us. They were served in to-go containers, which speaks to the easy-going feel of this spot. The vada pav is an Indian street food, made up of a fried potato patty between a bun, chutney, and garlic sauce. Moti’s version was smoky, sweet, and spicy and the perfect bite to start off the meal. Splitting it between two people gave us each about 2-3 full bites, so it would be ideal as a starter or as part of a larger meal. The pizza was about 12” inches, on thin crust, and covered in a mix of chicken, masala roasted corn, crumbled paneer, and topped with masala yogurt. The pizza was indulgent with the elote and crumbled paneer, but still felt light enough to have 2-3 pieces per person and not feel overly full.